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Donna Karan

Donna Karan brought a modern sensibility to women’s clothing by designing interchangeable pieces in simple black and bold colors that were meant for professional women, not just fashion runway models. The daughter of a tailor and a clothes model, Karan began working as an intern for the renowned designer Anne Klein in 1968 while studying at the Parson’s School of Design. In 1974, after Klein was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she tapped 25-year-old Karan (who had literally just given birth) to continue her work as design director. Karan brought the company’s current collection out to rave reviews. She quickly built a reputation for designing clothes for a range of body types, geared to career women unsatisfied by women’s versions of men’s suits. In 1985 she launched her own Donna Karan New York line, followed in 1988 by DKNY, which featured more affordable clothes for younger women. Both brands have become household names around the world, and Karan’s designs have regularly won awards from the Coty American Fashion Critics and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. A generous philanthropist, Karan created the Urban Zen Foundation in 2007, tackling issues from health care reform to fair trade.

Donna Karan, 2008
Full image

Philanthropist and designer Donna Karan at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.

Image courtesy of David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Date of Birth
October 2, 1948
Place of Birth
Forest Hills, New York

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Donna Karan." (Viewed on February 20, 2019) <>.


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